THREE TEST DRIVES FROM THE FIRST PRESS DAY
FAROX AERIO A6 2.3T
I was once the annoying kid that was running around town on my bicycle, begging for different types of advertising material at all the car dealers. Brochures, stickers, baseball caps, you name it. One thing I really do remember was that the local Farox dealer was one of the friendliest, gladly giving me everything I was asking for.
Back then, the Aerio was kind of a square and, to be fair, bland design. Until one day. In 1997 when I first saw the by then new generation of Aerio, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The shoebox was replaced by a sleek beauty and I was overwhelmed by how great it looked. And not only that, one day the salesman offered me to sit down in the drivers seat (of course inside the showroom), and I kind of was in heaven, I thought that nicer cars than this would never be produced.
Now, 21 years later, I have driven lots of cars as an automotive journalist (including all previous generations of Farox Aerio), and to be fair, the 1997 Aerio was a bit of a so-so car in its class. It had its flaws (heavy front end plowing in the turns, weak brakes) that a 11 year old really couldn’t tell by just having a seat. But still, it’s like if history repeats itself. Except for the fact that I am now 32 years old, I am at the Antiyita international motor show, and the people in the Farox monter are just as nice and helpful as the people working in my local Farox dealership in the 90s, and that they are the first to offer me to sit down in a car. In a brand new Farox Aerio. Except that this time, I will actually be allowed to test drive it for real and not just in my fantasy.
The trim I am testing is the 2.3T which probably will be the most interesting for Sweden. It has a 260 hp 2.3 litre inline turbo four, with its roots in 2004 but that was very advanced for its time. It’s said to be expensive to produce though, and I’m sure that the almost 80s style turbo lag is something that won’t please every buyer in this class.
The engine is mated to an 8 speed automatic that seems to be suitable for the engine, giving good driving comfort and fuel economy. The handling, as far as I could tell from the first short test trip, seems to be good. The car is easy to drive and the heavy front end plowing of some of the earlier generations is not noticeable, despite still being a front wheel drive car. The brakes are also up to the task, and of course in a modern car, there is ESC in case something goes wrong. It feels safe and secure on the road, shortly speaking.
However, we leave it to independent crash testing to prove if it is as safe and secure in a crash. There is rapid development in this era all the time, and Farox ain’t up to the level of some competitiors, at least when it comes to equipment.
Speaking of equipment, except for in the safety area, there is about what you can expect of a vehicle in this class. Nothing extravagant, but everything you need and a little bit more, and a decent infotainment system. The seating comfort is good but you should keep in mind that this car is only a four seater. Larger families have to stay away from the Aerio.
Farox cars often are much more biased towards comfort than sportiness, that’s true for the new generation Aerio too. The suspension soaks up bumps but is almost a little bit wallowy, and there’s not much of a sporty feeling. However, in an era when everything should have a rock hard “sports suspension” and low profile tyres, we’re sure that there is lots of people that will appreciate that Farox is refusing to give in for that. At least the performance is on the sporty side with a 0-100 time of 6.55 seconds and a top speed of 230 km/h. It doesn’t hamper fuel economy either, 7 litres per 100 km is acceptable in a car this size with 260 hp.
Is the Farox Aerio going to be a strong seller in its class? Well the price may not be dirt cheap but it is affordable, the vehicle doesn’t have any really weak points, it may not be a class leader in anything from what I could tell from my short test drive, but it seems to have its points. So I would say yes. Unless the pre-markup price of $24507 will skyrocket before reaching Sweden or if independent crash testing will put the car in the deathtrap category. But if you want my guess, that ain’t going to happen.
And whatever will happen, its looks is as beautiful now as it did some generations ago in 1997. And beauty sells cars. But from what I could tell after my short test drive, this beauty has brains too. Expect a more complete test when the first cars are arriving in Sweden.
KASAI CALIBRI HYBRID 1.8S TURBO
At least on paper, the Calibri is hot stuff at the moment. An affordable little hybrid, that can get 3l/100 km figures, with performance figures that are dangerously close to hot hatches of the past, that’s what every manufacturer needs at the moment. And of course, taste is something that differs between people, but I often hear “why do environmental friendly cars have to be so ugly”, and I think that the looks of the Calibri will appeal to most of the crowd that is sceptical for reasons like that.
One first surprise is the very advanced construction, an all aluminium body and semi space frame is pure sports car technology that you don’t expect to find in this class. One warning though, collision damage might be expensive, which can lead to higher insurance costs than other cars in its class.
Even though assisted by the electric motor, an 129 hp 1.8 litre turbo engine is the main heart of the vehicle. Maybe it doesn’t sound very impressive, it was what some manufacturers got out of N/A 1.8 engines 20 years ago, but looking at the whole power band, it has a nice torque already from the bottom and is very gentle without hardly any turbo lag at all. The transition between gasoline and electric engine is going smooth and nice, the overall feeling of the driveline is very positive. Maybe a 5 speed automatic may sound a bit ancient today, but the gearing is perfectly suited to the car and its driveline, so I would not really call that a problem.
The car is very easy to drive, important for a city car, and the handling is adequate if you look at it as one, and not as a hot hatch. There is some heavy amounts of understeer when pressed hard, but probably the average Calibri will seldom see such situations. Maybe one would expect a better result with such advanced suspension systems, up front is double wishbone and in the rear a multilink axle. But they do give a nice comfort, the ride is great for such a small car. Not only that, it is very roomy too, especially for the passengers but even the luggage compartment is good, considering that the hybrid technology takes up some space and that the car isn’t really a beast to start with. Even the sound levels are low for its class, also when only the gasoline engine is running.
The brakes are only fair though, sure, probably they are adequate for stop and go traffic in a crowded city, but in an emergency situation we have seen better results. ESC is of course standard, as are a list of other safety features that is of normal standard in this class. It’s missing some of the latest safety technology, and a small car will never be as safe in a crash as a larger one if everything else is equal, but Kasai has at least given safety some attention, though independent crash test results is like always what will reveal the final results.
The interior is the large surprise, it has a very nice fit and finish, well thought out design, material choices you’d only expect in larger and more expensive cars, and there is lots of gizmos to play with. A decent infotainment system with built in GPS is standard too.
The Kasai Calibri is something of a premium car among the compact hybrids, and with the steadily rising fuel prices in Sweden, and many buyers realizing that you don’t have to carry along lots of steel to get a nice car, we expect this to have some success in the market when reaching the car showrooms of our country. And it would really be no surprise. It’s a really nice car in a nimble little package, let it be for a price that isn’t low for a supermini, we dare to say that someone looking for a nice compact hybrid, there is value for the money in this package.
IP-KINGSTON LIFESTYLER 2800T
Since the boss have more or less banned me from testing IPs, it’s always as fun to get my hands on one. But even with IPs I have to be fair, and since this might be the model that will replace Lady Leadfoots old 2000 Lifestyler, I really have to watch it with critical eyes.
Looking at it, I can really say that IP went conservative with their styling. Not that it has to be something bad, it was rather somewhat of a trademark of the old Lifestyler that it had somewhat of a sleeper look, but I get the feeling that this wouldn’t have looked extreme on a motor show in the mid 00s either.
There has been some worries about the Lifestyler. That it would become a crossover, FWD or 4-cylinder. It turned out that everything was wrong though and the all new inline six was of course interesting to have a first look at. The first impression is that it sounds like a Volvo BM 840 wheel loader from the 70s on idle… not exactly sporty, but maybe masculine and brutal, which might be what IP thinks their buyers want. However, giving 218 Nm already at 600 RPM and a peak of 429 Nm at 3200 RPM, and reaching peak power at 6200 RPM with 303 hp, this engine feels like it can pull mountains up from the ground.
Considering those figures, a top speed of 246 km/h and a 0-100 time of 6.2 seconds is maybe not so impressive, but the car is heavy, weighing in at a little over 2 tonnes. What’s more impressive is maybe that the fuel consumtion of such a beast is as low as 8.2 litres per 100 km. Sure, it is far from impressive figures in todays world, but looking at the car stats one could easily believe that there would be no economy whatsoever.
A manual transmission in such a car is a brave movement, one has to be careful not to fry the clutch and the left leg easily gets tired. An automatic may be an option in future models, but since most buyers of the original Lifestyler went for manual, IP wanted to be true to their heritage, and I don’t blame them for that! The AWD system is, like before, biased towards the rear, and there is a geared LSD. I had no opportunity to test the system during harsh conditions, but I suppose it will work as well as the AWD in the original generations.
The car is biased towards oversteering, but you have to drive like a maniac to make it burst out. IP claims a lateral acceleration of 1.11 G, and I have no reason not to believe them. Also, the brakes are extraordinary, 33.2 metres to stop from 100 km/h is a result you have to be satisfied with. “Electric power steering” was for many years a word driving enthusiasts didn’t want to hear. However, nowadays they are good enough even for a car like this, the feeling in the steering wheel is as good as with any hydraulic unit, and turning the wheel around is very light, despite 265 (!) wide tyres, something that could not always be said about the old Lifestyler.
Active suspension is standard equipment, so are ESC (can be turned off, if you dare!) and launch control. Safety-wise, the equipment list is as long as a six year olds list of what he wants for christmas, and with the weight of over 2 tonnes on that, it probably is a tank when it comes to safety. IP promises 5 star Euro-NCAP rating and I see no reason not to believe them there.
The contoured sports seats might not be the ideal choice for a long trip but they sure gives good lateral support. The rest of the interior is also screaming that this is a car meant for spirited driving rather than cruising. The carbon fiber panels, the chubby little steering wheel with its flat bottom, the short but exact gear lever, it might not be the most cozy car you have been in, but it sure wakes up the speed demon inside you. If you get tired of listening to the engines tractor-like burbling, however, there is a decent sound system where especially the subwoofer impressed me. Blasting Rammstein and Raubtier in this beast while driving down some twisty mountain roads was an experience worth its name.
So, is the Lifestyler a good car? Technically, NO! It’s an overpriced, overweight, over-engined beast that is hard to handle, uncomfortable for its size and price, and totally unnecessary in all kind of ways. It’s a pure enthusiast car best suited for the few who wants a pure beast (in both good and bad ways) from an asian low-budget manufacturer, camouflaged into something that could be a family wagon from 10 years ago.
That’s why I guess that Lady Leadfoot will write to Santa about this as soon as she gets the test drive report. And that’s why I had a hard time to park the test car and get out of it.
Because just like with the old Lifestyler, I felt that my name was written on it.
- Mats Hansen